We asked her how her clients are coping in the current situation.
Cynthia says the top priority is “absolutely” financial viability.
While providers are working quickly to accommodate the Government’s guidelines, it all comes at a cost.
Most are going to full lockdown to ensure residents are protected, she says they have increased clinical monitoring of residents and staff to monitor social distancing, plus faster communication strategies, investing in guidance and education for staff and increased consumables.
She is particularly concerned for smaller providers who still have to meet all the same requirements as larger providers while running a stand-alone home.
Cynthia wants to see a $30 a day COVID-19 supplement for providers from the Government.
“The benefit of supplying the supplement is that you can turn it on and turn if off when the time is right and it can flow through the claiming process,” she said.
She does acknowledge that this may be contained in the $444.6 million funding package for the sector, but says currently the makeup of the majority of the funding is still unclear.
“To be fair on the Government, the announcements that have been made in three tranches are a major stimulus never seen before in the history of this country so we do need to allow time for them to filter down.”
“The point is you only need to look at the StewartBrown figures and Cam Ansell’s forecasts to know it’s not anyone trying to make it look like it’s difficult. It is genuine.”
Cynthia adds the Government’s stimulation of respite days won’t improve providers’ bottom lines.
Citing Ansell Strategic’s recent forecast around RAD movements, she says patients moving from the acute sector into residential care will likely need to be isolated for 14 days which will slow how quickly homes can take in new admissions.
“The disadvantage with respite is the respite fee is fixed and the accommodation fee for provider isn’t adequately addressed in the respite supplement. Providers that needs an inflow of RADs are going to be really quite concerned about their commitments, such as debt financing and liquidity strategies.”
The MD says the next concern she is seeing is making sure staff deploy prevention and preparedness plans.
While she is optimistic that aged care homes do have a good frontline defence, Cynthia warns this will become vulnerable if people stop keeping up their diligence and attention to detail.
She expects ‘fatigue management’ to become a major issue for operators, who have already experienced a number of changes in the past 18 months including a Royal Commission and new Aged Care Quality Standards.
Leadership will need to monitor staff at the coalface including facility managers, directors of care and carers for fatigue, she says.
“Everyone’s cortisol levels are up higher which means a heightened chance of irritability,” she said. “If your communications are not working as well, grumbling can start to unfold and that will increase pressure on leaders. You need to support people at the front line because they’re carrying a heavy load.”
While the MD welcomes the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission’s announcement that it will be measured in its approach to assessing providers over the next six months, she says providers also can’t afford to regress on clinical care – adding to the pressure on senior management, who she says are at “saturation point” with information.
However, Cynthia applauded the example of leadership that are already being demonstrated by providers to connect with residents and families.
“I believe when we get through to the other side, we will be very proud of our industry,” she concluded.